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San Diego-Based Marines Lead New Middle East Crisis Response Unit

Photo credit: USMC

U.S. Marines Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force board an MV-22B Osprey at Moron Air Base, Spain, May 2014.

San Diego-based Marines have deployed to the Middle East as part of a new crisis response unit. Their mission includes responding quickly to humanitarian and combat emergencies in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Photo credit: U.S. Central Command

This map shows U.S. military commanders' areas of responsibility throughout the world.

The 2,300-member unit, called Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force, is made up of combat infantry Marines, logistic forces and aviation assets from Camp Pendleton, Miramar air station and Twentynine Palms.

The Central Command plans and conducts operations in a region that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The Marines in the new unit are spread across several countries in the area.

“We don’t talk about any specific country where they might be based out of or operating out of,” said Joseph Kloppel, a Marine public affairs officer with the Central Command. "We defer to those host nations to make the first announcement on that."

The new force has similar capabilities to a Marine expeditionary unit, Kloppel said.

“They can do embassy reinforcement. ... They can be asked to support an evacuation of personnel from an area that might become unsafe to U.S. citizens, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel if aircraft goes down," he said.

Kloppel said the unit became operational on Oct. 1, and was created “to have a flexible force that could provide the CENTCOM commander with a variety of skills and mission sets for any type of contingency that may come up.”

Planning for the task force began 18 months ago, he said.

“It’s purely coincidental that it has been deployed at a time when there’s U.S. air operations going on in Iraq and Syria,” Kloppel said. “This unit would have deployed at this time whether we’d ever heard of ISIS or not.”

Fifth Marine Regiment commanding officer Col. Jason Bohm will head the unit. Deployments will rotate every six to seven months, but there's no timetable on how long the unit will remain in the region, Kloppel said.

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